December 24, 2008

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AgriLife entomologist says Texans should to be 'winter wise' about insects

By Paul Schattenberg
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

As temperatures drop, more and more Texas residents can expect to have unwanted winter guests drop in for a visit as well, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service entomologist.

"This time of year, primarily outdoor insects such as roaches, spiders, centipedes and scorpions will try to wriggle their way into people's homes in search for warmth and water," said Molly Keck, integrated pest management specialist for AgriLife Extension in Bexar County.

Keck suggested that Texas residents take precautions to "winterize" their homes against insects and small animals.

"Start by sealing up any exterior holes or cracks," she said. "You can use caulk to seal up solid walls like stucco or steel wool to fill weep holes in brick to keep insects and small rodents out and still allow continued airflow."

Keck also suggested trimming tree branches to keep them from touching a home's exterior walls or roof, as well as removing any debris or wood, trash or compost piles from near the home.

"Tree branches can allow access (to points) of entry for insects or possibly something larger," she said. "And wood piles, piles of debris or compost heaps and bins can make a warm shelter for insects. The closer they are to the house, the greater the chance of bugs getting indoors."

However, Keck said, finding roaches in a compost bin or pile is not necessarily a bad thing.

The two most common types of roaches found in compost bins are the American cockroach and wood cockroach, Keck said, and they help break down composting material.

"During the winter, people may see more cockroaches in their compost bins because it's nice and warm in there," she said. "But so long as you keep the bin sufficiently far from the house and the house sufficiently sealed, there's probably no need to treat for them."

Treating cockroaches in a compost pile or bin might inadvertently kill other beneficial insects as well, reducing the efficiency of the composting process, she said.

"Another thing to remember is that even though it's winter, it's still very dry, and bugs will try to get in to find water as well as warmth," Keck said. "There's not much you can do about that, but remember that any standing water near your home will draw bugs closer."

Another pest that tends to show up in people's homes during wintertime is the fungus gnat, she added.

"Fungus gnats feed in the fungus that grows in the soil of potted plants, and that fungus is usually there as a result of overwatering," she said. "When people bring their plants inside to protect them from a freeze, they often notice lots of these gnats flying around the garage or interior of their home. That's partly because the warmth speeds up their life cycle."

Keck said the best way to control the gnats is to repot plants in fresh soil prior to bringing them inside.

"However, once adult gnats are in the home they can be treated using an aerosol pesticide spray, provided it is applied in accordance with label instructions," she said. "The adults only have a life cycle of about a week, but you still have to eliminate the fungus to ensure there are no eggs left to produce more gnats."

Another area of "winterizing" for pests is the home garden, Keck noted.

"People with gardens should completely remove dead plant material in the winter so the same pests don't return in the spring," she said. "Cucumber beetles, caterpillars, stinkbugs and other non-beneficial pests that may have bugged them in the past year will be back next year if they don't remove the material that contains their eggs or provides shelter for dormant adults."

Keck said even though many insects are in or nearing a state of diapause or dormancy, others are still creeping and crawling around, frantically searching for a warmer, wetter place to winter.

"And if you live in a more rural area, it's probably still a good idea to give your shoes or boots a good shaking to be sure there are no scorpions in there before you put them on," she said.

Information and descriptions of insect biology and behavior of typical Texas insects can be found at http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/index.html.


Gardening tips

"One of my greatest 'treasures' is an old rusty wheelbarrow I use to plant a 'mobile' garden," writes Lisa Walling. "I painted it red on the outside and the rusty holes allow for drainage. It’s great for short-lived annuals and in the winter it holds my salad garden."

Have a favorite gardening tip you’d like to share? Texas Gardener’s Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will send you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here’s a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.


Did You Know...

The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture was named for Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, father of the Green Revolution and distinguished professor at Texas A&M. Building on Dr. Borlaug's work, the institute's mission is "to employ agricultural science to feed the world's hungry, and to support equity, economic growth, quality of life and mutual respect among peoples." More information on the Borlaug Institute can be found at http://borlaug.tamu.edu.


Upcoming garden events

Kemah: The Kemah-Bay Area Garden Club will meet at 9:45 a.m., Wednesday, January 7, at the Kemah Visitor Center and Schoolhouse Museum, 603 Bradford Street, Kemah. Carol Brouwer, Ph.D., Harris County Extension Agent, will present "Shade Gardening." Light refreshments will be served and the public is welcome. For additional information, contact Mary Ellen Chapman, President, at (281) 559-1912.

Austin: Travis County Master Gardeners Association will present "Rainwater Harvesting and Waterwise Gardening," 10 a.m. until noon, January 10, at the Zilker Botanic Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. This free seminar on capturing rainwater and lowering water usage in your landscape will cover all the basics of building a non-potable rainwater harvesting system. In addition, learn how to design beautiful gardens designed for lower water usage. Don't be misinformed, Xeriscaping is not "zero-scaping." Vendors representing tank and gutter companies will be available to answer specific questions. City of Austin representatives will be available to answer rainbarrel, permit and rebate questions.  For more information, visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

Houston: Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale will be held Saturday, January 17, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. A class describing all varieties for sale, as well as providing vital information on how to plant and care for each type tree will be held January 10 (12-2 p.m.) and 13 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) at Urban Harvest's office on Canal Street. A nominal fee of $10 is charged for the class. Register for the class by calling Urban Harvest. The tree sale is at Rice University's Football Stadium, on the concourse. For detailed information about the sale as well as about fruit trees, check the Urban Harvest Web site www.urbanharvest.org or call (713) 880-5540.

Schertz: Do you have a love for gardening and want to learn more about horticulture? Then the next Guadalupe County Master Gardener training class is for you. Classes are on Wednesday, January 21 to May 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Schertz Civic Center, 1400 Schertz Parkway. Instructors include Texas A&M AgriLife Extension specialists, staff and local experts, including Malcolm Beck, Patty Leander and Drs. Larry Stein and Mark Black. Topics cover botany & plant growth, entomology, Xeriscaping, propagation, herbs and vegetables, tree care and pruning principles, composting and organic horticulture, water conservation and much more. Registration is $170 with a 10% discount if received by December 29. For more information and applications visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.

Tomball: Arbor Gate will present a Fruit Tree Sale and Seminar, Sunday, January 25, at 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. A presale seminar presented by Heidi Sheesley, Treesearch Farms, begins at 9 a.m. The sale begins at 10:30 a.m. For additional information, call (281) 351-8851 or visit www.arborgate.com.

Tyler: Smith County Extension's annual East Texas Spring Landscape & Garden Conference will be held February 14 at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, Tyler. It is an all-day program with a range of topics, including landscape design, tree establishment and maintenance, rainwater harvesting, and plants for the region. Cost is $15. For more information, call (903) 590-2980 or visit http://easttexasgardening.tamu.edu/programs/2009 Conference agenda 2 with agencies.pdf.

Houston: The River Oaks Garden Club's 74th annual Azalea Trail will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 6, 7 and 8, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day, and will feature four beautiful private homes and gardens. Tickets for admissions are $15 before March 6 and $20 during the trail. For additional information contact the River Oaks Garden Club at (713) 523-2483 or visit www.riveroaksgardenclub.org.

Nocogdoches: The SFA Mast Arboretum will host its annual Garden Gala Day on April 18 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the SFA Intramural Fields on Wilson Drive, Nocogdoches. This event features the annual spring plant sale fundraiser benefiting the SFA Mast Arboretum, Pineywoods Native Plant Center, Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, and their educational programs. All of the plants are produced at SFA by the staff, students and volunteers. The public is encouraged to arrive early and bring a wagon. For more information and a list of plants for sale call (936) 468-4404, or visit http://arboretum.sfasu.edu and click on “upcoming events.”

Fort Worth: The Greater Fort Worth Herb Society's Annual Herb Festival will be held from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., May 16, at the Fort Worth Botanic Center, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd., Fort Worth. For additional information, call (817) 874-6405, e-mail festival@gfwhs.org, or visit www.gfwhs.org.

MONTHLY MEETINGS

Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Wildwood Eco-Farm in Kilgore. For more information, call Carole Ramke at (903) 986-9475.

Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., Allen. For more information, visit www.allengardenclub.org.

Austin: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.

Schertz: The Guadalupe County (Schertz/Seguin) Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) meets the second Tuesday of each month at the Guadalupe County Annex, 1101 Elbel Road, Shertz. A plant exchange and meet-and-greet begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by a program at 7. For additional information or an application to join NPSOT, contact guadalupecounty@npsot.org.

Friendswood: The second Tuesday of each month the Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold a free evening educational program for the public, called the Green Thumb Series, at Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 W Bay Area Blvd., Friendswood, about 1 mile west of I-45 and Baybrook Mall. For more information visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu or call (281) 991-8437.

Rockport: The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, meets the second Wednesday of each month, with the exceptions of June and July, to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including historical uses and tips for successful propagation and cultivation, meets at 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. Sometimes they take field trips and have cooking demonstrations in different locations. For more information, contact Linda (361) 729-6037, Ruth (361) 729-8923 or Cindy (979) 562-2153 or visit www.rockportherbs.com.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit www.sanantonioherbs.org.

College Station: The A&M Garden Club meets on the second Friday of each month during the school year at 9:30 a.m. at the Exit Center, 1600 Rock Prairie Road, College Station. Expert speakers, plant sharing, and federated club projects help members learn about gardening in the Brazos Valley, floral design, conservation topics, and more. For more information, visit www.sallysfamilyplace.com/Clubs/GardenClub.htm.

Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member’s homes and garden centers around the area. For more information, visit www.RainbowGardenClub.com.

Sugar Land: The Sugar Land Garden Club meets on the third Tuesday of each month, September through November and January through April at 10 a.m. at the Sugar Land Community Center, 226 Matlage Way, Sugar Land. The club hosts a different speaker each month. For more information, visit www.sugarlandgardenclub.org.

Denton: The Denton Organic Society, a group devoted to sharing information and educating the public regarding organic principles, meets the third Wednesday of each month (except July, August and December) at the Denton Senior Center, 509 N. Bell Avenue. Meetings are free and open to the public. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are preceded by a social at 6:30. For more information, call (940) 382-8551.

Granbury: The Lake Granbury Master Gardeners meet at 1 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the Hood County Annex 1, 1410 West Pearl Street, Granbury. The public is invited to attend. There is an educational program each month preceding the business meeting. For information on topics call (817) 579-3280 or visit http://www.hoodcountymastergardeners.org/.

Houston: The Native Plant Society of Texas — Houston (NPSOT-H) meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except for October (4th Thursday) and December (2nd Thursday). Location varies. For locations, for more information on programs, and for information about native plants for Houston, visit http://www.npsot.org/Houston.

Rosenberg: The Fort Bend Master Gardeners meet at 7:15 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except December at the Bud O’Shieles Community Center located at 1330 Band Road, Rosenberg. For more information, call (281) 341-7068 or visit www.fbmg.com.

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets the third Thursday of each month at the Texas AgriLife Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak at 7 p.m. For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.

Longview: The Northeast Texas chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets the third Thursday of each month at St. Mary’s Parish Hall in Longview. For more information, call Logan Damewood at (903) 295-1984.

Edna: The Jackson County Master Gardeners present their "Come Grown With Us" seminars on the fourth Tuesday of each month, January through October, beginning at 7 p.m. at 411 N. Wells, Edna. The seminars are free, open to the public and offer 2 CEU hours to Master Gardeners or others requiring them. For additional information, contact the Jackson County Extension Office at (361) 782-3312.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.

Seabrook: The Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold an educational program at 10 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at The Meeting Room (on the Lakeside) at Clear Lake Park, 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. The programs are free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.

Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization’s events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events. To ensure inclusion in this column, please provide complete details at least three weeks prior to the event.


The Southern Kitchen Garden

By William D. Adams and Thomas R. Leroy

A kitchen garden, or potager, is a celebration of the seasons: brimming with vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even fruit trees, it’s our link with nature and a source for fresh produce. The kitchen garden has always been an important part of life in the rural South, at times meaning the difference between being well-fed or going to bed hungry. In recent times, the kitchen garden has become more fashionable and now more and more homeowners are reaping the delicious rewards of growing their own food.

A kitchen garden needs little more than a small raised bed, so an aspiring gardener with only a modest backyard will have plenty of room to get started. If you have more space on your hands, then you can include some produce requiring a little more space like fruit trees, corn or pumpkins.

In the book, the authors with take you through the process of starting your very own kitchen garden from location to soil preparation to planting and then to harvest. It is also loaded with useful information on propagation, pest control and is laced with mouth-watering recipes and beautiful color photographs.

$21.30 plus shipping*

Order online with credit card at www.texasgardener.com or call toll-free 1-800-727-9020.

*Or with credit card by phone and receive FREE shipping. That is a $3.50 savings! Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted.


Wish you’d saved them?

Are you missing an important issue of Texas Gardener? Or, perhaps, just tired of thumbing through stacks of back issues looking for the tips and techniques you need to make your garden grow? Three new CDs provide easy access to all six issues of volume 24 (November/December 2004 through September/October 2005), volume 25 (November/December 2005 through September/October 2006), volume 26 (November/December 2006 through September/October 2007), and volume 27 (November/December 2007 through September/October 2008)*.

$16.99 per CD includes tax and shipping

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020.

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Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac

Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac is a giant monthly calendar for the entire state — a practical, information-packed, month-by-month guide for gardeners and "yardeners." This book provides everything you need to know about flowers and garden design; trees, shrubs, and vines; lawns; vegetable, herb, and fruit gardening; and soil, mulch, water, pests, and plant care. It will help you to create beautiful, productive, healthy gardens and have fun doing it.

$26.63 plus shipping*

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Fiber row cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

$30.64 per 12.3’ x 32.8’ roll (includes shipping!)

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Texas Gardener’s Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2008. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

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Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

Texas Gardener’s Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ● www.TexasGardener.com